Towering Pines Blog

Community Values

Allow me to wish you a late Happy Fourth of July! Significant not just for our country, but for the campers, too, Fourth of July is when our brother and sister camps get together for a special campfire. This event reminds us of the importance of building and preserving not only camp traditions, but also in promoting a sense of community! Week two was, indeed, community week at camp, so forgive me while I reflect on it for a little while.

Some of my research interests (in the off season) are community, tradition, and culture. How do we build the groups we love and identify with? What is the glue that holds people together, and how is it that culture grows? These are the questions that I apply my professional efforts to, and camp is a good example of such concepts.

What I mean by community is a group of people, living and working together, that share common values and practices. We are all part of different individual communities and have different identities, and these are flexible to an extent. Part of being in a new place like camp means convincing those different perspectives to get along. Are you from America or some other country? Are you from the city or a small town? Are you a math wiz or a poet? We all lead different lives, and fill different roles in different places. We bring all these aspects of ourselves to camp and that is part of what makes it such a robust community. Our camp community is diverse but unified in its values and goals.

TP and Woodland are separated according to the sexes. The traditional reasoning behind this is that it reduces distractions for a lot of campers, and it increases comfort in close living situations. But it also allows for an interesting context for campers to develop different communities. For example, at each camp, the boys and girls develop a distinct sense of pride in their own group. When the groups are together, that pride shows in healthy competition and collaboration, like in the playful interactions of cabin skits at the campfire. However, the identities of TP and Woodland are quite similar to that of brother and sister in a family: a bit different in disposition and interests, maybe, but loyal to the values of our camp family. Shared traditions, practices, and attitudes shape this common identity.

Fourth of July campfire is one of those traditions that we all share. Likewise, the Fourth of July holiday reminds Americans of their common identity. At any rate, the campers love to see each other and it gives them a special opportunity to think about their relationship to one another. It also gives them an opportunity to show off some great skits, songs, and challenges!

Fourth of July isn’t the only tradition that our brother and sister camps share, though. Each week, the boys and girls get together for a sailrace regatta. This tradition goes back for as long as we’ve had two camps, and in addition to giving the kids a little extra incentive to put on their racing jackets, it also allows us to build our community. Communities, much like a regatta, require individuals to find common ground and to adhere to agreed upon sets of rules. This agreed upon context provides a safe place to compete and excel, and it also reminds campers of what they have in common, regardless of their camp, origins or sex.


Incidentally, they performed admirably.

We started the second session today. We’ve got a bigger sailrace class (which I’m excited about) and campers seem to be branching about a bit in their activities. We saw a few fellas head home early, which was sad, and we hope to see them next time. Everyone else is just getting warmed up. Before long we will be starting coed show, too! I don’t know where the time keeps going but I will try to check in a bit more regularly as we go.